Species profile

Common Spotted Cuscus

Common Spotted Cuscus

Range and abundance

Rainforests and adjacent forests on Cape York Peninsula north of Coen, including the Iron and McIlwraith Ranges.  The Common Spotted Cuscus also occurs in New Guinea.

Description

The Common Spotted Cuscus is a large possum (up to 5 kg) that somewhat resembles a monkey in appearance. It has a round, bare-skinned face; large, forward-looking eyes; small ears, pink-orange snout, hands and tail, and a coat that is either grey (females) or spotted grey-white (males). Both sexes are relatively quiet; vocalisations include hisses, screeches, grunts and clicks.

Ecology

The Common Spotted Cuscus occupies rainforest from sea-level to the peaks of the coastal ranges. They are generalist herbivores, consuming the foliage and fruits of a variety of rainforest trees and vines. Cuscus also inhabit Nipa palms, freshwater and saline mangroves, large paperbarks and other tree species growing in riparian gallery forest.

The Common Spotted Cuscus has relatively thick fur that allows it to maintain an even body temperature with minimal energy expenditure. In hot weather, cuscus lose heat by panting and licking saliva onto their bare-skinned feet and face. Although primarily arboreal, they are capable of travelling long distances on the ground.

Threats

Cuscus are potentially vulnerable to a loss of habitat resulting from changes in fire regimes, particularly an increased incidence of late dry season fires which can damage the edges of rainforest patches.

What is AWC doing?

AWC implements a prescribed burning program at Piccaninny Plains to protect the edges of rainforest and riparian gallery forest along the Wenlock and Archer Rivers. Annual fauna surveys have confirmed the persistence of breeding populations of Spotted Cuscuses at Piccaninny Plains.

Did you know:

The Common Spotted Cuscus belongs to the same family as the Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), distributed across the eucalypt forests of much of Australia.